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article imageKaradzic: Bosnia's 'evil' genocide mastermind

By AFP     Apr 22, 2018 in World

To his supporters a hero who stood up for his people, Radovan Karadzic is to others a monster who brought the horror of genocide back to Europe half a century after the defeat of the Nazis.

The former Bosnian Serb leader was found guilty in March 2016 of the worst of all war crimes and sentenced to 40 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia -- two decades after he was indicted.

The one-time psychiatrist, poet, president and New Age healer was finally arrested in 2008 on a Belgrade bus after 13 years on the run.

The international community and his foes, Bosnia's Croats and Muslims, described the 72-year-old as a brutish megalomaniac responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people in a systematic campaign of "ethnic cleansing".

UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the verdict had exposed "him for what he really was: the architect of destruction and murder on a massive scale."

- 'Most evil man' -

Karadzic was convicted of genocide over massacre of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern town of Srebrenica in July 1995 and for murder and persecution during the Bosnian war that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

Richard Holbrooke, chief architect of the 1995 Dayton peace accord that ended the war, described father-of-two Karadzic as "one of the worst, most evil men in the world".

"He would have made a good Nazi," Holbrooke told Der Spiegel magazine after Karadzic's arrest.

But for many Serbs he was a hero -- akin to those in the epic Serb poetry that inspired him -- who defended their rights in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war as Yugoslavia was torn apart.

Karadzic was born in the poor Montenegrin village of Petnjica in June 1945 -- the same year that Josip Broz Tito's communist Yugoslavia came into being at the end of the World War II.

In 1960 Karadzic went to ethnically mixed Sarajevo, where he studied medicine, met his wife Ljiljana and later served a year in prison for fraud.

A keen poet, Karadzic was said to live a bohemian lifestyle and have Muslim friends, working as a football team psychiatrist and showing few nationalist tendencies.

His professional mentor, psychiatrist Ismet Ceric, told the US TV programme Frontline that Karadzic had "a thousand different faces" and likely a personality disorder.

"He doesn't live in reality," said Ceric.

- Political rise -

Karadzic's entry into politics came late. It was not until 1990, as communism collapsed, that he founded the Serb Democratic Party, developing a hardline nationalist ideology and a dangerous taste for power.

After Bosnia became independent from Yugoslavia in 1992 following a referendum boycotted by Bosnian Serbs, Belgrade-backed Karadzic declared a separate Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, with himself as leader.

In the bitter war that ensued with Bosnia's Muslim-led government, Karadzic is blamed for authorising ethnic cleansing, in which more than a million non-Serbs were driven from their homes, accompanied by widespread killing and rape in a calculated programme of terror.

The republic he created "brought death camps, mass executions, and genocide back to the heart of a continent that had fooled itself into thinking it had left such abominations behind," wrote journalist Julian Borger in a new book, "The Butcher's Trail".

Opening the prosecution in his trial in 2009, Alan Tieger described Karadzic as the "supreme commander, a man who harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred and fear to implement his vision of an ethnically separated Bosnia".

After the Dayton accord, Karadzic was forced to resign and went into hiding, with reports emerging of him finding shelter in remote Orthodox monasteries in the region.

Winning near-mythical status among his supporters by evading spy services as they hunted him, Karadzic took on the alter ego of spiritual healer Dragan Dabic, who gave lectures, had a national magazine column and drank in a Belgrade bar called the Madhouse.

With a $5 million bounty on his head, Dabic was finally unmasked as Karadzic when he was arrested on a Belgrade bus in 2008, disguised in a thick beard and glasses.

When the verdict was handed down against him in The Hague, chief UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz said: "Justice has been done".

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